G-Sync, backed by NVIDIA, and FreeSync from AMD are both solutions to the same problem – screen tearing during game sessions. Though they may be similar in concept, the two use different strategies to address that tearing issue. So which is better? Read on to learn more about the differences between G-Sync vs FreeSync and which is the best choice for you.
The problem they solve
First, what exactly is the problem these technologies are solving? Though both are advertised as addressing frame rate and stutter issues, it’s screen tearing that’s the major culprit when it comes to display problems. Screen tearing is a video artifact that occurs when the game frame rate does not match the display refresh rate and a portion of the next frame renders onscreen before the previous image refreshes. This usually presents as horizontal lines running across your display. And though it’s generally a problem reported by gamers running high frame rate rigs, screen tearing can also be a factor in higher frame rate video too.
What is G-Sync
G-Sync is NVIDIA’s proprietary solution to solving screen tearing using something called adaptive refresh technology and compatible only with NVIDIA graphics cards. Basically, this means that your frame rate and refresh rate get synced together, up to the monitor’s max refresh rate. So if your GPU is pushing 98 FPS on a 120 Hz display, the two sync at 98Hz. G-Sync works by embedding an NVIDIA provided hardware module in the supported monitor, allowing NVIDIA to have control over what display partners they certify via a strict licensing process. This gives NVIDIA strong control over QA, but does mean that G-Sync displays are generally more expensive.
What is FreeSync
FreeSync is AMD’s alternative to G-Sync, compatible only with AMD graphics cards. Though it uses the same basic adaptive refresh technology as its competitor, AMD has made the technology lie purely on the graphics card side by utilizing the existing VESA Adaptive-Sync standard, a part of DisplayPort 1.2a. This means it does not require a chip or even special licensing on the display side like G-Sync. This makes FreeSync essentially open source, meaning compatible displays are usually more widely available and at a lower cost to consumers.
G-Sync has been around longer and is generally regarded as being more mature tech. There are a few key advantages it has over the competition:
- Performance – Though both technologies perform very similarly at higher frame rates, G-Sync does appear to have an advantage at rates below the display’s stated minimum refresh. FreeSync monitors in this scenario tend to have issues with frame stutter.
- Market Share – Since G-Sync is compatible only with NVIDIA cards and NVIDIA currently holds a large market share advantage over the competition, it’s more likely that a G-Sync monitor will be more applicable to you and your current gaming PC.
- Hardware requirements – With the required display module, G-Sync tends to require less hardware power on the PC side. The difference isn’t major, but it does mean a lesser NVIDIA graphics card will provide similar adaptive refresh performance to its AMD counterpart.
Because of the openness of AMD’s model, FreeSync’s main advantage is the wider availability of compatible displays. While G-Sync is usually relegated to the most high-end gaming monitors only, FreeSync monitors come in mid and entry level options too.
So…Which is Better?
With very little differentiation in the technologies, the choice really comes down to brand preference. Remember, though any monitor will work regardless of the graphics card, support of G-Sync or FreeSync requires NVIDIA or AMD graphics respectively. The choice of which is really up to you.